There’s Sitll a Future in Plastics
As a child, my father would take me to the Seattle Seahawks game every Sunday during football season. We always parked in Chinatown and I remember walking past stores which sold little plastic stools and tables. I would always wonder to myself who would buy those tables.
I learned the answer the first time I visited Asia. I learned on this trip where those tables and chairs come from.
A shopkeeper chatted me up in Hanoi the shopkeeper eventually introduced me to her boss, a guy nicknamed Victory. Victory’s father founded one of the two largest plastics companies in Vietnam, Viet Nhat. After studying business management in Singapore, Victory joined the company. They currently employ 1,500 staff who crank out the millions of plastic stools, tables, chairs, and other products which are ubiquitous in Asia, and present in many Asian homes abroad.
You don’t need to count how many plastic stools there are in Vietnam to know that Victory’s family has done well in plastics. Victory invited me to spend the afternoon fishing with him and his father. They work every day of the week, but his father finds fishing to be a stress-reliever, so Victory jumps at every opportunity. We had a great conversation, translated by Victory over a feast of caught catfish, chicken, fries, and vegetables. Victory returned me to the city just after dark: they had to resume work again at dawn, while I explored Hanoi’s nightlife.
Hanoi is a perfect blend of old Asia and modern amenities and technology. The droning of a million motorcycles is a constant backdrop to the swirling masses. The next evening, Victory took me on a tour of Hanoi, from his perspective. He pointed out Bentleys and Mercedes, and explained that luxury cars fetch three times the US price in Vietnam. We passed new developments where homes quickly soar in into the million-dollar range, yet still had street food vendors in close proximity. Victory chatted on his iPhone 4 as we passed street food vendors whiling the time on their iPads. In plastics or other industries, it appears that people in Hanoi are doing well for themselves.
That evening we waited at one of the family’s homes for some others to join us for dinner. While I sat on an ornately carved wooden chair, Victory collected a handful of remotes. With a few buttons pressed, a screen descended, covering the window to the chaos outside, the lights dimmed, and a ceiling-mounted projector broadcast a pristine, high-definition image onto the screen. Perfectly-tuned speakers eliminated any reminder that there were several million motorcycles just outside buzzing past several million people, of all walks of life, seated on small plastic stools.